---- — By Connie Mertz
For The Daily Item
Elyse Whary of Trevorton knows what it's like working at the Valley Gun and Country Club in Elysburg during trap shooting events.
Since the age of 14, she worked there as a puller and scorer. Now 26, with a career as a physical therapist, she still finds time to check and post score sheets during trap shoots. But she has moved toward the competitive side of the sport.
"Years ago they had a day that the employees could come and shoot, and it was the shooters and coaches who scored and loaded the traps," she said. "I was 19 when I first shot. I had shot guns a few times before, but it was my first time handling a trap gun."
It was the beginning of Whary's love affair with trap shooting.
Early on, she would seek advice from the trap shooting community, but those who knew her didn't think she was serious. Still, she never gave up her pursuit.
Whary's interest in trap shooting shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone who knew her background. Her mother, Glenda, once served as personnel supervisor for the teens working summers at the Valley Gun and Country Club. Her father, Neil, and big brother, Brad, were "big into hunting," she said, "so I grew up around hunting and shooting, though I never had a desire to hunt."
Then she met Robyn Bird, Lady 1 PA-State Singles Champion in 2012 and '13. Bird took Whary under her wing and had Whary shoot with two others in a handicap practice. "I was very nervous because I never shot with real shooters before. I was instantly hooked!"
Whary hopes to acquire the same skill as Bird. "She was the first person to take me seriously and also to take me shooting. She is a very serious and driven shooter but, yet, at the end of the day she knows how to have a good time. She is focused, but has fun while shooting."
At this year's PSSA state shoot, Whary felt confident enough to shot her first 100 singles. It wasn't a score of 52/100 that impressed her, it was an overwhelming enjoyment of shooting.
She was introduced to a Browning BT-100 trap gun when she borrowed one. "The Browning BT-100 is a common first trap gun. I wanted my own personal trap gun that was fit specifically to me, and I wanted a good quality gun that was similar to what other trap shooters shot," she explained.
After purchasing her Browning a few months ago, she hasn't had much opportunity to become familiar with it. She is excited about a trap shooting event in a week and wonders how she'll do. "I really don't care if I win or not. I just want to shoot," she said with a smile..
"The most difficult thing for me right now is the hard angled targets from posts one and five. It's sometimes hard to swing and catch up to the targets. Shooting is skill, but a lot of it is mental. I have to keep telling myself to keep my weight shifted and head down on the gun. As soon as I pick my head up to watch the target break, I most likely miss the target."
Charles Fritzges, PSSA Manager and Tournament Director of PA State Sportsmen's Association, remembers Whary well.
"She has talked about getting into the sport for years, but undergraduate and graduate work took all of her time. Now that she's finished with her schooling and working, she's decided to get into the sport," he said. "Her best attribute will be persistence. She will work at it until she becomes proficient."